Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Layer Cake (2004)

A Great Gangster Ride

- He is not a gangster, he is "a businessman whose commodity happens to be cocaine" and whose peers and clientele happen to be gangsters. His name? Well, if you knew that you would be as clever as him....

Layer Cake is a great 2004 British gangster flick directed by long time Guy Richie Producer Matthew Vaughn, written by J.J. Connolly (based on his novel), and starring the would-be James Bond, Daniel Craig.

Daniel Craig was churning out great performances before he ever became our favorite spy in 2006's Casino Royale and is particularly excellent in Layer Cake in the lead role, delivering one of his finest performances (if not his very best one). Craig has a very strong screen presence and an interesting subtle acting style - and both are on high-quality display in this film. Also, Craig manages to stay not only likable but very sympathetic throughout, even though his character works in the illegal drug field and is not exactly your unblemished hero type. He is a businessman who has tried to stay on the outskirts of the drug world layer cake, while often indirectly or unwillingly involved in some of the rotten and deplorable sides of the business, but he keeps slipping more and more into the whole mob mess and you really feel the character's plight through Craig's performance.

His "bridge to the criminal world" is Monty (performed very well by George Harris) who also has his back (when he is not laying low himself) - but watch out: Monty has a temper of royal proportions. Gene (portrayed flawlessly by Colm Meaney - it is a toss-up between Meaney and Craig as to who gives the best performance in the film) is always there for him too; however, being #2 to the drug boss, he can only be your friend to a certain extent.

Needless to say, this line of work is lucrative (if you know how to play the game correctly) but full of life-or-death risks - and while all has been well for Craig's character for most of his cocaine-dealing career, it only takes a favor for his drug kingpin boss to flip his life on its head. A simple favor turns into an involved situation with many different dangerous players who do evil deeds that lead to violent aftershocks. "Welcome to the layer cake son."

Despite having a hurry-up-offense-like ending, Layer Cake has an interesting plot that keeps the viewer wondering where everything will lead as well as some particularly enjoyable dialogue full of memorable and humorous lines. Director Vaughn shows that he should have left Guy Ritchie's right hand long ago, as Layer Cake has more attitude and stronger characters than anything Ritchie has directed. Vaughn also creates a sharp look film and plants a cool soundtrack throughout, giving the film plenty of verve and flare.

Layer Cake is simply a must see movie, especially if you are a fan of the gangster film genre (American or Brit gangster films) or are a fan of Daniel Craig.

CBC Rating: 9/10

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